Quebec forest fires continue to rage out of control

August 10th, 2018

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QUEBEC – The situation was still critical Friday in central Quebec as a dozen forest fires continued to rage out of control – forcing residents of two native reserves to flee.

Quebec’s forest fire protection agency, the Sopfeu, said 62 fires were burning across the province Friday morning and 14 were out of control. More than 29,000 hectares of forest have so far been destroyed.

The Abitibi region, in northern Quebec, and the Haute-Mauricie region, located north of Trois-Rivieres, are the two provincial hot spots.

The recent heat wave in Quebec has increased the risks of forest fires and lightning has also sparked fires.

As well, the forecast for hot and dry conditions for the next few days isn’t encouraging firefighters.

The Sopfeu also noted20 new fires flared up overnight Friday.

The fire protection agency has 14 water bombers, 50 helicopters and more than 800 firefighters battling the flames across the province.

It has requested reinforcements from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre and two water bombers from Manitoba have landed in Quebec. The state of Maine said Friday it is sending 21 firefighters to help battle the wildfires.

One of the biggest blazes in central Quebec forced the evacuation of more than 1,300 people from the Wemotaci First Nation reserve, located some 300 kilometres north of Trois-Rivieres.

The residents were taken by bus Wednesday night to nearby La Tuque and bunked down at the school or with friends, family or at the hotel.

"There’s room for everyone to sleep, that’s good news," said Transport Minister Julie Boulet speaking to reporters in La Tuque Thursday. "We’re here should other needs arise and we will support these people so their stay is the most comfortable possible, considering the circumstances."

The fire was still at the village’s boundaries Thursday and a thick cloud of smoke covered the region. "There’s smoke over an area of 100 kilometres by 100 kilometres," said Jacques Raymond, spokesman for civil security in the Mauricie region.

The provincial police said fire damage in the Wemotaci Atikamekw reserve was limited to a home and a shed. The evacuation order was still enforced and the road that leads to the village remained closed.

Authorities are also keeping their eyes on fires near the reserves of Obedjiwan, where about 70 residents were evacuated, and Manawan, as well as the village of Parent, all in central Quebec.

Late Thursday provincial police said a preventive evacuation of 300 people was taking place in Manawan, involving people with health or mobility problems and pregnant women.

They were bused to Joliette where they were to set up camp in a local arena.

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Toronto police make first arrests after banks vandalized

August 10th, 2018

At least one person has been arrested in connection with anti-G20 graffiti spray-painted on Toronto banks overnight.

Vandals spray-painted slogans such as “Resist G20″³ and “Stop G20″³ on bank walls, windows and ATMs.

As many as six banks were targeted in the Spadina and Dundas and the Spadina and College areas. The suspect reportedly rode a bicycle between his targets around 3 a.m. Investigators hope to learn more by reviewing security footage.

At least one person has been charged with mischief, according to reports.

“It’s quite clear that the billion dollars that’s spent is not there to protect taxpayers, it’s there to protect Stephen Harper’s photo-op,” city councillor Adam Vaughan said Friday morning.

“It’s just wrong. It wasn’t just the banks that got tagged – it’s … small businesses that got tagged.”

Mr. Vaughan, whose ward will likely be seriously affected by security surrounding the world leaders’ summit, expressed frustration on Thursday that the federal government will not be compensating homeowners or businesses for property damage sustained during the G20.

“The Prime Minister’s office has got to revisit this policy now,” Mr. Vaughan said. “I don’t understand the federal government that won’t protect its own citizens.”

A Royal Bank branch in Ottawa was also firebombed last week. No one was injured; initial estimates suggested the vandals caused $300,000 damage. On an independent media website, the perpetrators warned they are also headed for the G20 in Toronto.

That incident is cause for even more concern, Mr. Vaughan said. Many of the buildings are extremely old and vulnerable to fire, and low-income residents live above shops in the area, he stressed.

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Ottawa won’t pay for G20 damage: councillor

August 10th, 2018

The federal government says it will not pay for damage suffered by property owners as a result of protests against the G20 meeting next month, according to Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan.

In an email released by the councillor, a member of the Summits Management Office writes that damage caused by third parties, including vandalism, will not be compensated.

"These types of damages are insurable under normal insurance coverage," wrote Effie Triantafilopoulos, deputy director and special advisor G20 liaison.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," Mr. Vaughan told reporters at City Hall on Thursday. "They’re bringing this party to town. They know what accompanies this sort of event, and for them to walk away from small businesses after they spent $1-billion on themselves is an absolute disgrace, and Stephen Harper ought to have an answer for those small businesses."

He said city staff had been negotiating with the federal government on how costs would be covered when they learned of this development.

Leaders of the G20 countries will be meeting at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on June 26 and 27, protected by a fenced-in security perimeter in the downtown core. Mr. Vaughan has long argued that the event should have been held at Exhibition Place.

He said the city had tried to convince the federal government to post a bond in advance to cover the costs incurred during the event. He added that in the Entertainment District, businesses "can’t even get insurance for plate-glass windows because of the behaviour of club kids, so these people are in a more vulnerable position."

The summit’s website details what may and may not be covered by the government. Businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals living or working inside the security zone and who suffer financial loss as a result may be eligible for compensation. For those outside the zone, but who do business in it, certain claims may be eligible, the website states.

In addition to vandalism, the government will not compensate damages for personal injury, damages for emotional stress, "amounts that can be paid out by means of another instrument, such as statutory or regulatory scheme, Treasury Board policy, program, grant or contribution" along with private security measures "as security agencies will be providing the required security."

The estimated cost to police the G8, in Huntsville, and G20 summits is approaching $1-billion. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mayor David Miller said Ottawa is paying for the G20.

"Ottawa is covering the costs of the G20, period. The city is not on the hook for them, so it’s up to them what they deem to be a cost," he said. "Property damage is between the individual properties and Ottawa."

He said there is an agreement with the federal government that they will cover Toronto police overtime.

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Lightning bolt knocks off piece of Winnipeg church

January 23rd, 2019

WINNIPEG – A lightning strike Friday morning knocked off a chunk of the stone bell tower atop Winnipeg’s stately Knox United Church, sending it crashing about 25 metres to the street below.

No one was injured, according to the fire department.

The boulder-like chunk, measuring more than one metre in diameter, slammed down onto the front steps of the church, then caromed into the street, narrowly missing vehicles.

The steps of the historic church were badly damaged.

There was no one inside Knox United at the time of the bizarre incident; however, a day care nearby was evacuated as a precaution.

"A spire came crashing down. Apparently it got hit by lightning and came crashing down," said Pastor Bill Millar of Knox United. "In the end, it’s a building . . . nobody was hurt."

Knox United is one of the city’s oldest places of worship and has been designated a Manitoba heritage site. It was constructed between 1914 and 1918.

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Hundreds of Guatemalans flee deadly volcano

January 23rd, 2019

Guatemala City – Hundreds of Guatemalans were in shelters Friday after a powerful eruption at the southern Pacaya volcano killed one person and forced the international airport to close.

Ash blanketed the region as rocks and lava spewed for about four hours from the volcano 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, injuring dozens of people. Three children aged seven, nine and 10, were also missing in the area, officials said.

On Friday, the volcano was calm and shrouded in thick fog.

President Alvaro Colom late Thursday issued an emergency decree lasting at least 15 days for the three departments nearest the eruption, which began Wednesday night.

La Aurora International Airport was closed to ensure planes were not flying through the volcano’s hazardous ash cloud or landing on the ash-strewn runway, said spokeswoman Monica Monge. Incoming flights were being diverted to airports in other parts of the country, she told reporters.

Some 1,700 people were evacuated from the slopes of the volcano, which rises 2,552 meters (8,372 feet) above sea level in the tropical Central American nation. They were placed in shelters.

The burnt body of television journalist Anibal Archila was found near the volcano by a colleague, who said the reporter had been unable to escape the raining rocks and other projectiles thrown out in the eruption.

Within a 100-kilometer (62-mile) radius of the volcano, locals armed with brooms and shovels scrambled to remove sand and ash from the roofs and courtyards of their homes.

"We’ve only cleaned the backyard so far and we’ve already filled a large garbage bag," Isabel Estevez told AFP. She and her husband began cleaning the sediment dumped by the volcano, up to five centimeters (two inches) thick in some places.

The Education Ministry also suspended classes in the three departments affected by the emergency decree, which facilitates the allocation of resources and funding to the disaster response.

The head of the national seismological institute, Eddy Sanchez, warned that lava would continue to spew out at high altitudes.

There are 288 volcanoes in Guatemala, eight of which are active.

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Layoffs cut into wages, retirement income in Canada

January 23rd, 2019

OTTAWA – More than half of the Canadians who found a job after a layoff have seen a decrease in their hourly wages, "significantly" affecting their retirement income, a new Statistics Canada report released Friday found.

The study found that Canadians who were laid off in the last two decades were about 60 per cent more likely to suffer a loss of earnings than to experience a gain. Between 2002 and 2006, about 42 per cent experienced a wage loss during that period compared with 26 per cent who experienced a gain, while about a third maintained the same earnings. The same figures were observed between 1993 to 1997.

The Statistics Canada study used data from its Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics from 1993 to 2007, analyzing the effects of layoffs after the economic recession in the early ’90s and the decline in the manufacturing sector in the 2000s.

Wage losses and gains were "generally substantial," the report said, with more than half of the changes in wage exceeding 20 per cent.

While the effects of layoffs during the recent recession remains to be seen, the study’s co-author, Diane Galarneau, said there are many similarities between in those two periods of negative job growth that may apply to this downturn.

"Whether we look at the consequences of the layoffs in the 1990s . . . or the year 2000, the consequences were similar in terms of wage loss, pension coverage and unionization."

The study said the wage losses show that layoffs can have "major negative consequences and affect workers’ standard of living" in the short term, but stresses the effects of losing pension plan coverages are even more significant.

"Employer-sponsored private pension plans are an important component of Canadians’ retirement income," Statistics Canada explained. It said a "sizable portion" of all laid-off workers – 20 per cent – lost their pensions by changing jobs.

The study also noted that laid-off workers were just as likely to be unionized before and after the layoff, suggesting that wage losses experienced by laid-off workers cannot be linked to a shift toward non-unionized positions. They noted, however, that unionized jobs are on average better paid and more likely to provide benefits such as insurance and pension plans.

Of the people who were permanently laid off between 2002 and 2006, about 85 per cent found a new job within a year, compared with about 80 per cent from 1993 to 1997.

The country’s layoff rate for full-time workers declined almost steadily during that same period, dropping to 2.4 per cent in 2007 from 5.5 per cent in the early ’90s.

"This low rate was observed despite the difficulties in the manufacturing sector during the 2000s," it wrote.

Factors including sex, age and education level were "significantly associated" with the probability of being laid off, the report said. In general, men have higher layoff rates than women, they said. Both in 1993 and 2007, men were one and a half times more likely to be laid off.

About 80 per cent of people who were laid off in 2007 were a result of a lack of work, 15 per cent was because their firm went out of business, while 5 per cent of the firms moved.

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Aga Khan to launch $300M Islamic centre in Toronto

January 23rd, 2019

TORONTO – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Aga Khan will break ground on Friday at the future site of a $300-million cultural centre for Ismaili Muslims.

By 2013, the seven-acre expanse in Toronto’s north end will be home to a world-class museum, a multi-purpose building and parklands.

The museum – to be devoted entirely to Islamic art – will be the first of its kind.

Farid Damji, a member of the Ismaili Council for Canada, said the Aga Khan chose to build the centre in Toronto because of its "cosmopolitan cultural outlook."

Almost half of Canada’s 70,000 Ismailis live in Toronto.

The Aga Khan Museum will be a white-stone building with a low dome by prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki. Directly south, the larger Ismaili Centre Toronto by Mumbai-based architect Charles Correa will strike a similar, modern pose, with a multi-faceted glass roof and a limestone exterior. It will contain meeting rooms, a prayer room, youth lounge and a library. Surrounding these buildings will be a network of geometric ponds, fountains, gardens and pathways.

A billionaire, intellectual, diplomat and tycoon, Shah Karim al-Hussayni – the Aga Khan IV – is revered by Ismaili Muslims as a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad.

He is perhaps best known for his vast array of philanthropic projects, and as chair of the private Aga Khan Development Network, the Aga Khan directs about 70,000 employees at hundreds of institutions on four continents.

Once a trusted friend of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, the Aga Khan has a soft spot for Canada, which he has called "the most pluralistic country on the face of the Earth" and "a beacon to the world."

His project in Toronto will complete a trio of architectural projects in the country, including the Ismaili Centre in Burnaby, B.C., and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa, inaugurated by Harper and the Aga Khan in 2008.

Ismailism – a branch of Shia Islam – first prospered during the 10th to 12th centuries. Today, the group counts an estimated 15 million members around the globe and is comprised of at least three distinct sects.

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Court backs tenants but payment in doubt

January 23rd, 2019

After winning their two-year legal fight, low-income former tenants of an East Vancouver apartment building doubt they’ll ever get the landlord to pay the 170,000 in damages he owes them.

Tenants at 2131 Pandora St. were given only a few hours to move out after heavy rains caused floods in mid-October 2007.

On Wednesday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge upheld the Residential Tenancy Branch decision last year to compensate 36 tenants.

The three-storey woodframe building is owned by landlord Gurdyal Sahota, who also owns a number of Downtown Eastside hotels, such as the Astoria, Balmoral and Cobalt.

“I would like them to do the right thing and pay us what they owe us,” said Roberta Dixon, a Pandora tenant for 10 years, who had water leaking into her suite for six of them.

Dixon lost all her belongings when she had to evacuate the building.

“It was a disaster,” said her longtime roommate Frank Sowers.

The leak started with a hole in the ceiling the size of a finger, he said.

“At the end, it was coming through the chandeliers.”

They’re both now living in a B.C. Housing complex.

“They should be man enough to pay their debts,” said Sowers.

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The tenants’ lawyer, Sarah Khan of the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said the judge found Sahota showed

reckless disregard” for the tenants.

“It’s the largest damage award that has been ordered for a group of tenants in these circumstances,” said Khan, speaking Thursday at the centre’s Vancouver office.

“This sends a really good, loud-and-clear message to landlords to take care of their buildings and not let them fall into such a state of disrepair.”

Sahota’s lawyer, Derek Creighton, said he’s disappointed with the ruling and doesn’t yet know if it will be appealed.

“They haven’t advised me as to whether they intend to appeal it,” he said.

“The Sahotas will abide by the orders of the lower court, if they don’t appeal.”

Sahota is currently suing an insurance company for nonpayment of the repair costs, estimated at $1 million. The building remains closed.

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Huntsville to become securityville as G8 Summit approaches

December 23rd, 2018

HUNTSVILLE, Ont. – In less than a month, the picturesque town of Huntsville, most known for its towering pine trees and idyllic lakes, will be transformed into a high-security zone protected by an unwelcoming metal fence and guarded by soldiers and Mounties.

For the 19,000 year-round residents, the preparations for next month’s G8 Summit have been two years in the making, but the impact it will have on their lives has only begun.

Valerie Alles lives on the hill directly above the posh century-old Deerhurst Resort where the G8 meetings will be held June 25-26.

As one of the hundreds of residents living near the summit zone, Alles and her husband will be forced to wear ID passes at all times and go through security checkpoints when they leave or enter their home that week.

"The summit is only two days so it doesn’t really justify all this security stuff," said Alles, enjoying a day at one of the beaches on Peninsula Lake, where Deerhurst is situated. "The soldiers are already camping out in town and security has stopped me a few times on my way home. My friends have seen the military apparently practicing drills on their property. In the end, I hope Huntsville gets some exposure from all of this."

The couple has been told they can’t have any visitors during the summit. Alles’ husband, a logger who carries fuel and chainsaws for his job, has also been warned he will be bodychecked each time he passes through one of the many barricades set up along a stretch of Highway 60 leading to the couple’s home. He’s still deciding whether he can afford to take the week off to avoid the inconvenience altogether.

An estimated 10,000 security personnel, including members from the Canadian Forces, RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, and private security guards, were expected to be in Huntsville, located approximately 250 kilometres north of Toronto.

Leaders from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States will join Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the two days of meetings aimed at tackling foreign policies on a number of topics including: labour and trade, poverty, health and the environment.

The security detail for some of the dignitaries are anticipated to be up to 50 vehicles in length.

Earlier this week, the federal government announced a $930-million price tag for security at the back-to-back summits: the G8 Summit and immediately following, the G20 Summit in downtown Toronto.

Ottawa initially estimated security costs at $179 million.

Although no specifics were released about where the money will go, the majority, $450 million, has been pegged for the RCMP. The summits will be the largest security event ever in Canada, even surpassing what was required for the recent 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Most of the security and police officers will be staying at White’s Pit, a 24-hectare quarry that has been filled with rows and rows of portable trailers. Cement trucks and crews can be seen working away in the fenced-off area.

Undoubtedly, one of the major security features at the summit will be a $3.9-million fence that is being built around 324-hectares at the Deerhurst Resort. The three-metre high fence, about eight-kilometres long, will cut through the resort’s manicured golf course and into the surrounding Muskoka bush.

It’s yet to be completed but can be seen as far away as nearby Highway 60.

Last weekend, the official G8 Centre, the location where the meetings will take place, was opened at the luxury resort.

For the past few months, there has been a steady stream of construction trucks around Deerhurst as workers ready for the summit. Roads are being repaved, even the rocks along the side of the highway are being hosed down to a pristine condition.

Huntsville resident Ron Schut thinks all the preparation is much hoopla about nothing.

"We’re spending a lot of money for this," he said, walking to his pickup truck. "In the end, the taxpayers are going to have to pay for it. That’s politics."

Schut, who lives about 15 minutes from the town centre, said he and his wife will look after their grandchildren during the summit. School bus service in the area has been cancelled and teachers have told parents not to drive in their kids.

The family plans on stocking up on groceries and staying indoors, waiting for the crowds to leave town.

On Main Street in downtown Huntsville, Helen Luvison said her husband Lou said naysayers have been few and far between. The majority of the townsfolk want to showcase the reasons behind the Muskoka region’s motto: "Once Discovered, Never Forgotten."

"We’re all really proud of Huntsville and what we have to offer," she said. "We all know something like this will never happen again."

One of the ways the couple is readying for the summit is by nailing plywood to the windows of their IDA drugstore to prepare for the protesters expected to come into town.

"We bought it (the wood) because we know no one is going to come fix our windows at 3 a.m.," said Luvison, who has owned the store for 23 years. "We don’t anticipate any trouble. It’s just a precaution."

She said she’s going to have to bring all the flower boxes that dot the front of her store inside, and plans on extending working hours past 6 p.m.

The Luvisons are also stocking up their drug inventory, joking sunscreen and bug spray will likely be the big sellers.

Jeremy McClung, a pastor at the Muskoka Community Church, said the anticipation has definitely been building.

Soldiers can be seen walking around town in their fatigues and the other day, McClung said, he and his son saw two black military helicopters fly overhead in a practice formation.

"To me, this is going to be the most exciting thing to ever happen to Huntsville," he said, enjoying some famous Muskoka ice cream.

Mayor Claude Doughty said there have been few complaints about the anticipated crowds. Huntsville usually sees about an additional 100,000 people pass through town during the peak cottage season of July and August.

"The people who are apprehensive probably plan to holiday somewhere else, the people who aren’t, are here and looking forward to the event," he said. "Huntsville is made up of a lot of people who have a lot of self reliance. They’re not intimidated by crowds."

Doughty said the good news for the leaders is that black fly season should be over by the time they arrive.

"There are very few black flies. I have yet to see my first this year," he said. "The black flies are vastly overrated and they aren’t going to be a problem at all on those manicured grounds around Deerhurst. But the leaders should definitely bring sunscreen. The sun always shines in Huntsville."

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World Bank cancels Haiti’s debt

December 23rd, 2018

WASHINGTON – The World Bank said Friday it had cancelled Haiti’s remaining debt to help the impoverished country recover from a devastating earthquake four months ago.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, will not have to repay 36 million dollars owed to the International Development Association (IDA), the bank’s fund for the poorest countries, the Washington-based institution said in a statement.

"Haiti now has no further amounts payable to the World Bank," it said.

The IDA debt cancellation was made possible by contributions from 13 member nations: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Shortly after the massive earthquake in January flattened the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, the 186-nation World Bank announced it had suspended repayment of the IDA debt and would seek to cancel it.

"Relieving Haiti’s remaining debt is part of our effort to pursue every avenue to help Haiti’s reconstruction efforts," Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said in the statement.

"We will continue to work in close co-operation with the Haitian government and our international partners to support the country’s recovery and longer-term development."

The World Bank noted it has made available 479 million dollars in grants to support Haiti’s post-quake recovery and development through June 2011 and is also the trustee of the multi-donor Haiti Reconstruction Fund.

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Police warn public of convicted sex offender

December 23rd, 2018

Winnipeg police and the RCMP are issuing a warning to the public regarding a convicted sex offender, who is considered a moderate to high risk of becoming involved in further sexual offences.

27 year old Graeme Kyle Brown will be released from Stony Mountain Institution on May 28, 2010. He is expected to take up residence in Winnipeg.

Brown has previous convictions for Sexual Interference and Making and Possessing Child Pornography. Although he participated in some sex offender treatment programs while in prison, he is still considered a moderate to high risk to re-offend. Police are warning that male children in particular are at risk.

This information is provided to enable members of the public to take suitable measures to protect themselves. Police would like to remind the public that any form of vigilante activity or other unreasonable conduct directed at Brown will not be tolerated.

Details:

Name: Graeme Kyle BROWNDOB: 1982-11-16Height: 170 cm (5’ 7″)Weight: 60 kg (152 lbs)Hair: Brown Eyes: GreenRace: CaucasianDistinguishing marks: None

IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION ABOUT BROWN AND WISH TO SPEAK DIRECTLY TO A POLICE OFFICER, PLEASE CALL MIHRSOU AT (204) 984-1888.

Background information:

Graeme Kyle Brown is a 27 year-old male with a criminal record for sexual offences involving children.

Between 2003 and 2005, he was involved in acts of Sexual Interference against two boys aged 8 and 10 as well as a charge of Making Child Pornography (the acts of Sexual Interference were videotaped). On June 1, 2007, he was sentenced to 3 years with respect to these charges, all sentences to run concurrently.

On May 28, 2010, he will be released from prison and is expected to take up residence in Winnipeg. Upon release, Brown will be subject to the conditions of recognizance made under the Criminal Code.

Brown has participated in some sex offender treatment programs while in custody. However, he is still considered a moderate to high risk to re-offend. Male children are at risk of sexual violence.

This information will be displayed on the Manitoba Justice Sex Offender Website: 杭州夜生活gov.mb.ca/justice/notification.

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Bike-lane work downtown could snarl traffic

December 23rd, 2018

VANCOUVER – Cyclists will soon have an easier commute through downtown, but as construction on a Dunsmuir Street bike lane continues, traffic delays could cause headaches for drivers.

Dunsmuir traffic will be reduced to two lanes from Hornby to Beatty streets during the morning and evening rush hour and down to one lane during non-peak times of day, as city crews construct medians and traffic signal poles for a new two-way bike lane. Weekend traffic between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. will be reduced to one lane.

City staff are encouraging motorists to take alternative routes such as the Cambie Street Bridge to avoid traffic congestion.

"We’re messaging to motorists that there’s lots of capacity on the Cambie Bridge and encouraging people to look at alternatives," said Jerry Dobrovolny, assistant city engineer of transportation.

While many cyclists are looking forward to using the enclosed bike lane, some drivers making their way through downtown Thursday afternoon were complaining of delays on Dunsmuir. David Calmeyer said despite the traffic, he hasn’t seen anyone using the new cycling route on the Dunsmuir Viaduct.

"I can see it from my window and I look out and I see traffic like crazy and no one riding in the bike lane," he said.

According to Dobrovolny, a trial of the separated bike lane on the Dunsmuir Viaduct has shown an increase from less than 100 cyclists a day to nearly 1,000 daily. He anticipates that once the new downtown cycling route is completed by June 15, it will encourage more people to take their bikes to work instead of their cars.

Arno Schortinghuis, president of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, said the completion of the enclosed bike lane will make a big difference for cyclists downtown.

"It’s going to be extremely important," he said. "This is exactly the type of facility that will get way more people riding bikes. The more people that ride bikes, the safer it is for all cyclists."

Next week’s Bike to Work Week also aims to get more cyclists on the road. Leading up to bike week, ICBC is encouraging cyclists to take safety precautions to avoid collisions, such as wearing a helmet and reflective clothing.

Drivers are encouraged to keep an eye out for cyclists, keep at least a three-second following distance and stay out of bike lanes.

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Riversdale shifting gears

December 23rd, 2018

A local developer says Riversdale is ready for the next stage in its development.

To that end, Curtis Olson of Shift Development Inc. has purchased the former headquarters of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company at 220 20th St. West.

He plans to turn it into his company’s head office and the location of several like-minded small businesses involved in everything from graphic and website design to furniture design to engineering.

"I’m going to be kind of bringing together a lot of these forward-thinking businesses, people who are concerned about how our city is growing and developing in the coming years, into one facility,” said Olson.

"The building and Riversdale are going to be a home for my business for the next 20 years."

The main floor will have a cafe. Olson couldn’t announce the owner yet, but it’s an established local operator. Office and shared space, such as meeting and board rooms, will be upstairs.

Olson bought the building based on location and quality. Listed at $645,000, it was also a good price, though he wouldn’t say how much he paid for it. The rennovations should cost about $250,000 and be ready by fall. At one point, the building was home to Joe’s Cycle.

"That building is smack dab in the best part of 20th Street, and it’s a big building and it’s got great bones. And it’s going to be a really easy renovation project," Olson said.

"It’s one block away from the farmer’s market. I can walk there in five minutes from my house in Caswell Hill. I figure I’ve got it licked to live without a car now."

The concept of hubs for creative business — laptop-based, world-focused — is growing in the United States but still fairly rare in Canada, said Olson.

"I know a lot of people who’ve moved back to Saskatoon that still do business all over North America. They’re a little shop — but they have unbelievable talent.

"It’s going to be very exciting."

The theatre company, meanwhile, has said it plans to move next door to its original building at 228 20th St. after renovating it. The theatre was forced to restructure and put one of its two buildings up for sale due to its debt load.

While some ponder the future of Riversdale, Olson says he can already see it.

"I have spent a lot of time in Riversdale. I’ve kept a very close eye on that neighborhood and Caswell Hill. In my mind, the future of those two neighborhoods has already been determined because I know the demographic of people buying houses and moving into these areas and it is a very progressive, very urban-focused demographic of people moving in.

"The future is written for Riversdale."

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